“All too often women believe it is a sign of commitment, an expression of love, to endure unkindness or cruelty, to forgive and forget. In actuality, when we love rightly we know that the healthy, loving response to cruelty and abuse is putting ourselves out of harm's way.”
― bell hooks
Your heart is a fortress. It's a palace. It's a sacred place, and you must protect it like it is your sworn duty and number one priority in life. I have been unraveling the wisdom in this for a while now, but I have only recently begun to truly act on my understanding. Life is too short to allow anyone near your heart who causes you harm. Life is crowded, and you will always have to engage with people who aren't exactly your sacred people, but you do not have to allow anyone into your heart who does not treat it like a temple or protect it like a fortress.
If you weren't taught healthy boundaries or healthy love, it can be hard to discern who is good and who is bad for you. I am not a psychologist and will leave the deep analysis to the experts, but I can speak from my own personal experience when I encourage you to listen to your gut and begin to trust yourself. If someone is wrong for your life, you can usually feel it, and you don't have to have a good explanation for why. If the relationship doesn't lift you up, make you feel respected, encourage the best in you, and support your growth ... you don't need to stay. You just don't. You don't owe anyone an explanation for taking care of yourself, full stop.
If you aren't sure if you need to let go of a relationship or just make some changes, that's ok too. Maybe you need to try and have a conversation with the person to see if they are open to what you need. It took me a long time to realize this, but if you try to communicate with someone and express what you need and they shut you down, shut you out, or dismiss what you have to say, you don't need them. Life is rich and full, but it goes by really quickly. Save your precious time and energy for people who treasure what you bring to this world. The sooner you let go of people who don't value your soul, the sooner you will have space for people who do.
It's completely ok to love someone and care for them and still gently ease them out of your inner circle if they just aren't on the level you want from your closest people. You can maintain connection to plenty of people without letting them close to you, and the sooner you tighten up that inner circle, the better. Your heart is a sacred place. Your soul and your dreams and your goals and your vision and your fears are worthy of care and attention and love. You don't need to sacrifice any of what you need in intimate relationship for anyone else's comfort, and anyone who expects you to feel guilty for taking care of yourself or who expects you to accept hurtful behavior is not your friend. There is a level of sacrifice and work that goes into intimate relationships for certain, but I'm talking about the kind of sacrifice that either requires you to cause your own self harm or isn't in balance with the giving of the other person. Love will not expect you to harm yourself or shrink.
Love is careful. People who love you will be careful with your heart. They will treat you as a worthy individual. They will not use you or make you into an object or an accessory or a status symbool or any other such thing. They will value you, and you will know you are valued because when you share who you are and what you need, they will respond with compassion and love. They will lift you higher.
If you feel like you are always working really hard to keep a relationship alive, give yourself permission to just let it go. Truly. Just let it go. Stop trying. Stop fighting for anyone who isn't fighting for you because they really aren't worth your fight. Look for compassion, and pay attention to how the people in your life respond when you share yourself with them or when you share how you feel about the relationship. Love will open itself up to you and reflect love back to you.
Be your own most steadfast protector and guard that beautiful soul.